Attitude Isn’t Everything, But It’s a Thing

Hiding from the sun and staying psyched during my first trip to Vedauwoo, where even the 5.5s felt hard. Photo: Shane Gustman

I dislike rowing. I’m not a fan of most things cardio, especially those involving going nowhere on a machine indoors. I typically write them off as “boring” and “pointless.” However, I’ve determined that rowing once a week is probably the best indoor cardio cross-training exercise for my climbing. Thus, you’ll find me sweating out 5K on the rower–one 2:23 kilometer at a time–once every 7 to 10 days. It’s not “fun,” but I’ve learned that reminding myself how much it sucks does nothing to make it better. I row no faster crabby and sulking compared to when I focus on form and power. In fact, I usually row slower when I repeat “This sucks; I hate rowing” over and over in my head.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with having a consciously positive attitude toward my not-so-favorite parts of training. Basically, when it comes to anything that’s hard, sweaty, and/or not something that I’m particularly good at, I consciously change my inner thoughts from “This 5K is going to suck” to “You’re strong; be powerful.” Yes, I do tell myself “you can do this” before sweating out yet another set of pull-ups. I also stand up straight and begin my sets confidently. This all might sound silly, but I’ve noticed that I’m a lot happier and perform better when I’m confident in my ability to complete a workout. I’m not hard on myself if I don’t complete every rep I was hoping for, but going into a set doubting myself won’t help me crank out more crimp pull-ups either. And slumping over in exhaustion after each 1K on the rower is terrible for my posture and alignment.

So why this mental shift? Working at Evo, I’ve gotten to watch snippets of our head coach Justen Sjong working with clients from Alex Puccio to local kid-crushers, and I always hear him talking about how important attitude, posture, and how one approaches every climb, easy or hard, and every exercise, from pull-ups to box jumps, is. Are you defeated before you begin a problem because you see three sloper pinches in a row, and you’re “bad at” pinches? That’s how I used to approach “hard for me” problems: Defeated before I touched the first hold. Now, instead of wasting time telling myself I can’t hold onto a pinch or that I’ll be slow on my next rowing set, I look for the best way to grab each hold and find which feet might “take weight off” from bad hand holds. I’m not surprised when I fall off slopers, but I also don’t let doubt hold me back from trying hard on something that doesn’t fit my style.

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself cocky, nor do I think being unrealistically confident is helpful. I don’t try to tell others how strong I am or how hard I workout–I’m the first to say how humbled I am every time I climb. However, I am working to combat my natural tendency to sell myself short.

So before starting your next workout, or boulder problem, or even as you sit at your desk thinking about next weekend’s outdoor adventures, notice your posture and thoughts. Are you slumped in defeat, nervous about failing on a redpoint attempt or dreading tonight’s endurance pull-ups? Or are you psyched to test yourself on some rocks? Your attitude toward climbing isn’t everything, but it’s certainly a thing.

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